Red light and speeding cameras and class privilege

It turns out that Colorado lawmakers have devised a system in which their car license plates don’t show up in the database when speed cameras catch them. Because of that, they never get speeding (or parking) tickets and are free to be repeat offenders.

The plates issued to the 100 state lawmakers and representatives elected to serve Colorado are preventing them not only from receiving photo radar tickets but also collection notices from past due parking tickets.

The legislative plates are not entered into the Colorado DMV database, so when photo radar cameras catch these drivers speeding, they never received tickets. That’s because of a loophole that doesn’t allow the City of Denver to electronically cross-reference those plates with a home address.

Now CBS4 has uncovered the same glitch with parking tickets. Lawmakers who don’t pay their parking tickets aren’t sent to collections. The problem is the City of Denver’s collections relies on the state DMV database for addresses.

This one example illustrates a point that I made three years ago about the surprising amount of controversy generated by speed and red-light cameras.

In Ohio, some local communities (such as my own Cleveland suburb) have either installed red light and speeding cameras in places or are thinking of doing so. It is remarkable the level of outcry that this has generated. People may not care that much about the government violating their privacy and civil and human rights with abandon, but use technology to catch speeders and red light runners and they are up in arms and suddenly become highly concerned about due process and the presumption of innocence, even though it is far more cost-efficient to use cameras for this purpose actual police officers.

This issue has caused such an outcry that the Ohio House of Representatives has passed a bill by a 61-32 vote to ban such cameras everywhere in the state and the bill has gone to the senate. I expect it to become law.

I have written before (see here and here) as to why I think such cameras are a good idea and I don’t want to repeat those arguments here. But I do want to highlight one point that I made then in their favor that the recent Colorado action gives evidence for.

[T]he camera system seems to have the advantage of complete impartiality. It does not care what kind of car committed the offense, whether it is a dull old minivan or a flashy red sports car. More importantly, it does not discriminate among drivers either. The camera does not know or care if you are old or young, rich or poor, black or white, attractive or homely, well-spoken or inarticulate. It does not care if you are a person of influence or a nobody. Cameras do not profile people.

In other words, these cameras allow us to actually practice the ideals of justice, completely blind to everything except whether one has committed the offense or not.

And I think that is precisely the problem. People who are not poor don’t like an impartial justice system because the current system works in their favor. I referred to an article by George Monbiot in The Guardian when the same controversy came up in the UK. As I wrote back in 2010:

Most people think that they somehow have an edge that they can use to escape paying the fine if they are caught by real live traffic police. They think they are important enough or look respectable or influential or attractive enough, or that they can manufacture some plausible excuse, that will get them off the hook. It is just the young and poor and people of color who tend to be out of luck when it comes to finding ways to escape.

In other words, traffic cameras commit the worst offense: they do not respect class privilege. I have to agree with Monbiot’s conclusion, though in the US I would expand his group from ‘conservatives’ to all members of the better-off classes: “The real reason why Conservatives hate the enforcement of speed limits is that this is one of the few laws which is as likely to catch the rich as the poor: newspaper editors and council leaders are as vulnerable as anyone else. The Conservative reaction to speed cameras suggests that they love laws, except those which apply to them.”

The problem with Colorado’s move is that it only favored legislators and that was too narrow an exemption. Perhaps Ohio should learn from them and create a more explicitly class-based system where license plates could be coded in such a way that those who were well-to-do would not have their license plates show up in the databases. If only the poor and marginalized were caught by them, then we would be back to the normal justice system and there would be no problem with installing cameras.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … the advantage of complete impartiality.

    Someone with better Photoshop skills than I will have to take this to the next step: the statue of Justice holding up her scales, with her blindfolded head replaced by the dome of a traffic cam.

  2. says

    I’d happily support red light cameras just because of the impartiality. However, they have to fix the revenue generation portion – no more too short yellows, no more ticketing people making legal turns on red lights, and knock off the ‘it costs just as much to challenge a ticket as it does to just pay it’ so that when mistakes actually are made, they can get rectified without penalizing an innocent party.

    Basically, implement them intelligently, and it won’t be a problem. But too often they are implemented just for fund raising rather than for safety.

  3. Corvus illustris says

    The questions of cynical shortening of yellow-light periods and increased accident frequency have been beaten to death exhaustively discussed in comments on your (linked) earlier posts. But I’d be curious about the effectiveness of pricey auto hardware that purportedly defeats radar and/or laser speed measurement. Class distinctions could just reënter the situation in a less obvious way.

  4. says

    Though the real problem has always been the money. I know some folks who are fairly wealthy and think nothing of speeding everywhere, or even driving drunk, because they can afford the tickets and lawyers to get out of the tickets. Then there are the people for whom a speeding ticket would mean they can’t afford rent that month, and worry about going 1 mph over, even though the rest of traffic is going 5-10mph over.

    IMHO, there should be a sliding scale for tickets based on either net income or the value of the car or something like that. A ticket should hurt enough to be a deterrent, but not enough to break anyone. This is, of course, assuming first time offense (except for drunk driving, throw the book at them) for speeding. Chronic offenders should have to pay higher and higher until it does have to involve jail time and loss of license.

  5. Corvus illustris says

    … I know some folks who are fairly wealthy and think nothing of speeding everywhere, or even driving drunk, because they can afford the tickets and lawyers to get out of the tickets.

    Many states have a “point system” in which convictions put some number of points in your DMV records, and when the number gets too high you’ve got problems (the points come off over time, with virtuous behavior). It sounds as though the folks you know have actually to beat the tickets much of the time, or … ?

  6. machintelligence says

    Some of the communities with these red light cams are doing just that. The yellow lights have been lengthened to reflect higher speeds on some streets, and the best units show how long the light had been red and and both the speed and whether the vehicle was accelerating. As one of the officers who reviews the resulting data said “we don’t send a ticket to someone who entered the intersection .06 second after the light turned red; but someone who accelerated through 2.7 seconds later definitely gets one.”
    Sadly, others are used just for “revenue enhancement.” Denver is particularly bad. If you come to a stop with your front wheels beyond the stop bar painted on the pavement, you will get a ticket.

  7. Corvus illustris says

    Moi? If I spend any time in the left lane, I get honked at because–oh, the white hair, I suppose.

  8. neuroturtle says

    If you have money, you can exchange that for points.

    When I worked as a court clerk, a rich person could take their 70mph-in-a-40mph ticket to a lawyer and have it changed into a $300+ rolled stop sign ticket – a non-moving violation with no points.

  9. Vall says

    One of the objections I have to red-light cameras are the disruption of traffic patterns. It isn’t just a short yellow, the one near me has a short green too. If you are three cars back when it turns green, it will be yellow by the time you start to move, And if it’s late at night, the light won’t change until someone eventually drives by the other way and it tries to catch just one more.

    These are obviously revenue machines, but when they are installed (without public votes), they are touted as a “safety” feature. So another objection I have is the sneaky way city governments implement them. I do NOT object to cities raising revenue, these cameras are effective, just don’t lie to my face about the reason. Also consider, as robot revenuers they are only 50% effective because half of the money raised goes back to the company that runs them, and I am against government welfare for the rich.

  10. CaitieCat says

    Finland has implemented an income-proportional traffic fine system. I seem to recall some fellow paying about $80000 for a ridiculously fast drive on which he was caught.

  11. says

    I remember there was a problem back in the DC area where someone had diplomatic plates and got pulled over trying to break the sound barrier on the beltway — the problem is not that power corrupts, it’s that shitheads are attacted to power because it offers them excusable shortcuts and exceptional treatment.

  12. Corvus illustris says

    Apropos the point-system and income-proportional fines questions: your compulsory no-fault insurance premiums go into increasingly interstellar orbit with increasing (from zero) DMV point scores. Just another way in which public costs yield private profits. Oh and Finland: midnight sun, lovely lakes and woods, and draconian traffic laws (particularly for DUI, now also apparently for speeding). Perrrrrrrkele!

  13. Thinker says

    The red light cameras aren’t perfect. A few years back i got a ticket in the mail for running a red light. The problem? I was some 600 miles away at the time of the supposed infraction, and so was my car (I was away on a job thing). I don’t know who they thought they caught, but it wasn’t me. I was able (after many months and a court date) to get the ticket reversed with credit-card receipts for hotel and restaurants. It would have been cheaper just to pay the stupid ticket, but I had the money to fight it, and eventually justice prevailed.

  14. slchonda says

    If a jurisdiction uses red light cameras in conjunction with reduced yellow change intervals, they can be beaten in court. There is a standard formula in the Traffic Engineering Handbook as to the length of the yellow change interval and the all red clearance interval. If the implemented intervals are significantly shorter then that given by the formula, that would constitute evidence as to a money raising scheme rather then a traffic safety scheme.

  15. kyoseki says

    I have a (purely hypothetical) question.

    For anyone who supports speed cameras, would you also support (for example) a GPS based system mounted in all cars that issued a ticket any time the driver exceeded the posted speed limit? Or enacted a speed limiter that forced the car below the limit?

    How about mandating breathalyzers/ignition interlocks in all vehicles?

    I support red light cameras but not speed cameras, primarily because speeding may or may not be dangerous depending on conditions (and the level of speeding), but I can’t see any instance in which running a red light could ever be accomplished safely – automated cameras don’t make this distinction, whereas real police do.

  16. Mano Singham says

    Those are interesting hypotheticals. I’ll give my responses.

    In general, I am not in favor of actually disabling a car or limiting its abilities because there could be situations where it needs to be overridden. In the case of a speed limiter, one can think of many situations where it may be necessary to go above the speed limit and one has to be willing to make the case for it if one does so and is charged.

    The breathalyzer/ignition interlock makes more sense. I can think of scenarios where it is important for a drunk driver to be able to drive but they are a little far-fetched. I assume the device knows how to distinguish between the smell of alcohol from the driver from the other people in the car.

    As for the GPS sensor, the catch is that sometimes one can go above the speed limit by accident or need to do so to overtake or even to avoid an accident. The speed cameras are presumably placed in locations where it is particularly dangerous to speed or at random places in a general effort to cut down on speeding, like the way that police cars are located. It seems like a good balance.

  17. Vall says

    I may be mis-remembering, but I think Singapore had a system in commercial vehicles that would turn on a blinking yellow light if it exceeded a certain speed. Then the police could write a ticket at their leisure until they re-set it. No need to pursue.

    I’m not sure how I would answer your question though. I loved visiting Singapore. It’s the cleanest, most orderly city I’ve been in, but it comes at a price. No chewing gum, no un-flushed toilets, no speeding, and so on. One thing they don’t have are wide open roads in the middle of nowhere. So I’ll say for the U.S., in urban and suburban areas, yes, but not so much in the wide open. Speeding through San Francisco is very different from doing 80 mph on I 5 between Tracy and the Grapevine.

  18. lorn says

    I’m shocked, shocked I tell, to hear that automated ticketing systems have been compromised to allow certain select people to avoid consequences. Rank Has Its Privileges (RHIP) in this case it isn’t rank so much as status and position.

    Get to know highway patrolmen and you learn that it is pretty common for them to have a quota, which isn’t ever allowed to be called a quota, or implied it is a quota. (Just don’t fail to be “diligent enough” or “meet expectations” if you want good evaluations, access to overtime, and promotions) The law says that every person ticketed has the right to contest the ticket in front of a judge. If they contest it and the officer fails to show up in court the ticket is expunged. Officers generally don’t like to have to go to court. It means a lot of waiting for the case to come up. This is time on the job. Time that could be used to me the quota, the one that doesn’t exist.

    So experienced patrolmen have a system that allows them to ticket people but lower the odds the ticket will be contested: you select people to ticket who are unlikely to contest the ticket.

    You avoid any obvious show of status or wealth. The mayor’s son gets a pass because the mayor will either have it lifted administratively or contest it in a courtroom where he knows the judge (RHIP). Local and state people with standing go the same route. Avoid the idle rich because they have time to go to court.

    There are, of course, signs of being a good target. Out of state vehicles imply that it will likely be a hardship for them to return to go to court. The working poor, because they can’t afford to take time off from work to go to court. The very poor, black, and illegal aliens, because, correct or not, they feel they won’t get an even break no matter how unjust the ticketing was.

    Some law enforcement agencies are more immune to this sort of thing than others. Smaller towns which may make a significant proportion of their income off traffic fines are often the worse. This is very similar to law enforcement shakedowns in Mexico or Afghanistan. The difference is that those fines typically go to the officers and make up for low pay. Either way, it is often best to pay the fine and accept it as the cost of doing business.

  19. kyoseki says

    I have a couple of friends who have been slapped with DUIs, the ignition interlock is a tube the driver has to blow into before the car will start, rather than something that samples the air of the passenger cabin.

    IIRC, it also randomly requires you to blow into it as you’re driving so you can’t just have someone blow into it to start the car – apparently it sets off the car alarm if you don’t blow into it again.

    Drunk driving kills 10,000 people a year or thereabouts, so I can definitely see a use for a hard wired system to disable a vehicle if the driver has had too much to drink (even if it’s just to keep honest people honest – after all, the first casualty of alcohol is good judgment), but the question is, would the establishment support such an idea if that’s all it did? Would those who profit from DUI fines and the associated costs want to see a system that would cut their revenue stream to nothing, even if it did save huge numbers of lives?

    I’m not sure.

    … of course, I think we can all predict the rallying cry of those parties in opposition.

  20. kyoseki says

    Now, to the second point, speeding.

    The problem I have with speed cameras is that once they get started, the people managing them tend to get carried away – the revenue stream they generate is very enticing to regional governments.

    I recently returned to the UK for a couple of weeks and they’ve got completely mad with the things. Not only do you have the point based cameras that are ostensibly at accident black spots along with mobile ones to instill a sense of general paranoia, but now they have average speed cameras that record your license plate and issue tickets if you traverse the distance between two of them at higher than the posted limit (usually these are turned on during road works, which, like here, seem to consist of unending hordes of orange cones with suspiciously little actual “work” occurring).

    I think the real difference here is that most people can see reasons why exceeding the posted speed limit isn’t necessarily dangerous, there are even a few instances where it could be safer than staying below it (although usually this is because someone’s already made a couple of mistakes leading up to that point).

    In my experience, the usual culprits that lead up to a traffic collision are lack of observation and a lack of concentration. Speed, in and of itself, is not particularly dangerous, particularly at lower levels, but when you combine it with those two, the chances are you’re going to have a bad day.

    The problem here is that we only ever check for speed, no doubt because it’s the easiest thing to check for and is really the only one of these things that can be checked in an automated fashion, so rather than identifying the people who are driving in a genuinely dangerous fashion, we simply isolate one aspect of that behavior and test for it, making the unproven assertion that simply because someone was speeding, they were driving dangerously.

    Efficiency wise, assuming that all awful drivers exhibit all three signs, then isolating for one of the signs will eventually net all awful drivers as a subset of the huge number of non-awful drivers that get caught, you could make the argument that it does save lives, even though it exacts a huge burden on the bulk of non-dangerous drivers who occasionally exceed the posted limit.

    … of course, this isn’t even the case either, the only crash I’ve been involved in as a driver occurred well below the posted 40 mph speed limit. Someone in an oncoming turn lane failed to see me (I was only driving a 2 ton flat black jeep so I can see why I blended into the background) and made a left turn across my lane. Neither of us was speeding, so no static traffic camera would have given us a ticket, yet a collision did occur, so clearly someone fucked up (Insurance company decided it was completely the other party’s fault)

    Now it’s a fair point to say that someone traveling at 70 mph in a 30 mph limit likely represents a much greater risk to other road users, but the guy who is traveling at 35 on the same road gets a ticket nonetheless, even if the conditions warrant it.

    So the real question is, is the speed limit for the camera set at a dangerous level or is it set at whether the posted limit is? One would hope that the posted limit would be sensible, but we all know roads that are arbitrarily set at a lower speed than it can be safely navigated at.

    So, anyway, back to the main point, speed (at least at most common speeds) is such an unreliable indicator that it’s really not a good basis for determining whether or not someone is driving safely at any given time, consequently taking arbitrary snapshots of that behavior and determining that to be “unsafe” and worthy of prosecution seems to result throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Unfortunately, with the sheer amount of money they generate, there’s no real incentive for the government to examine their practices.

  21. kyoseki says

    I believe the UK employs something similar, there’s a data logger behind the dashboard of commercial vehicles there that tracks speed & distance and duration behind the wheel. They’ve been doing it for decades, it’s all paper based, works sort of like a circular seismograph with a needle drawing onto a circular piece of paper.

    IIRC, the paper can be randomly checked by the ministry of transport’s Schutzstaffel to make sure nobody’s breaking the rules.

    I guess it helps with heavy goods vehicles, but I’m not sure such tactics would ever fly with regular traffic.

  22. slchonda says

    They used to do something similar on the NY State Thruway, which is a toll road. The time when one enters and exits is recorded. For example, if the entry point and exit point are, say, 100 miles apart and the time difference was 1 hour, that would imply an average speed of 100 mph on a 65 mph facility. A speeding ticket would then be issued. The only way to beat the system was to stop for a half hour at one of the plazas, which sort of defeats the purpose of speeding.

  23. slchonda says

    Now it’s a fair point to say that someone traveling at 70 mph in a 30 mph limit likely represents a much greater risk to other road users, but the guy who is traveling at 35 on the same road gets a ticket nonetheless, even if the conditions warrant it.

    In some states, someone traveling at 20 mph above the posted speed limit will be ticketed for reckless driving, which is a more serious offense then speeding and will result in doubled fines and doubled points.

  24. says

    Or they hire a lawyer, and get it reduced to something with fewer points, or they actually have the time to pretend they are attending traffic school, or when the number gets too high they bring the lawyer in then, or, to be blunt, they flat out bribe somebody.

  25. says

    Yep, if you have money, it’s ridiculously easy to get a ticket ‘fixed’. Just buy X number of tickets to the policeman’s ball, and the problem goes away.

  26. says

    The thing about speed limits is that they are often stupid. One should be able to drive as fast as conditions allow for safety. That means sometimes, the speed limit is 90. And other times, on that same road, the speed limit is 20. A GPS mounted system won’t catch reckless driving, which is the actual problem.

    Also, given existing problems with GPS, no. Too easy for the GPS to say you are on street A, which has a speed limit of 30, when you are really on parallel street B, which has a speed limit of 45. Given the number of times my GPS has said ‘turn left here’, when to the left is a field, lake, river, or building, yeah… can’t support that.

  27. says

    Fines need to be removed from revenue. All fines generated by the traffic system (as well as from confiscations) should go into a different basket. Let’s put them towards education or something instead.

  28. jester says

    There are people (with COPD, for example) who can’t blow hard enough to activate the interlock. This happened to my mother (she didn’t have the DUI; she was driving the car home for someone else who did). It left her stalled on the side of the road awaiting someone with better lungs.

  29. CaitieCat says

    Put them to a streets and highways infrastructure fund. NOT the police department or the town coffers.

  30. CaitieCat says

    I say this, by the way, as someone who frequently visits the US, and gets to drive on the result of 40 years of increasing neglect of road maintenance in favour of drowning government in a bathtub. It’s so much worse, particularly in the Rust Belt, that getting across to the Canadian side feels like you’re gliding on air, with decently-maintained asphalt roads, instead of the inevitably cracked and frost-heaved Buffalo or Detroit concrete roads. My back hurts just thinking about it.

  31. Mano Singham says

    I hadn’t thought of that. Due to my medical history, I have very low lung capacity. I wonder if I would be unable to get past the machine.

  32. jamessweet says

    Yup, that’s my concern too. I am ambivalent about speed/red-light cameras: I agree with all the positives Mano has listed, but I also know people who have gotten red light tickets that really didn’t deserve them (because of things like short yellows, excessively long delays before you can proceed with a right on red, etc.) If the “revenue enhancement” issue can be resolved, they are almost undoubtedly a good thing. But since they are so often abused, that makes me ambivalent.

    I also, however, agree with Mano that even if traffic cameras are a bad thing, people ought to be more outraged about unchecked wiretaps than this, heh..

  33. Mano Singham says

    It is not just the roads. The general decline in infrastructure maintenance in the US is a scandal.

  34. CaitieCat says

    Truth. I get a little heeby-jeeby every time I cross a bridge when I’m headed south, too. I mean, a state/county in a cold-weather location who install concrete roads because concrete’s cheaper? Clearly haven’t ever modeled out the cost in tire wear and shocks wearing out and myriad other problems from heavy vibration due to driving over roads that seem more like a North Atlantic storm frozen in place than an Interstate highway in the richest nation on Earth.

    The US is a weird place, in a lot of ways.

  35. Corvus illustris says

    The two- or more-car family can probably work around the requirement for these devices, so again we have varying versions of justice depending on socioeconomic status. (Ya, that’s against the law–just as the DUI was.) The offender probably has to pay for the device too, and if s/he can’t afford it …

  36. AsqJames says

    I recently returned to the UK for a couple of weeks and they’ve got completely mad with the things. Not only do you have the point based cameras that are ostensibly at accident black spots along with mobile ones to instill a sense of general paranoia, but now they have average speed cameras that record your license plate and issue tickets if you traverse the distance between two of them at higher than the posted limit (usually these are turned on during road works, which, like here, seem to consist of unending hordes of orange cones with suspiciously little actual “work” occurring).

    The average speed systems are almost exclusively used during motorway roadworks here in the UK (it’s certainly the only time I’ve encountered them). The normal, non-roadworks speed limit on motorways is 70 mph (but the average speed of motorway users is probably 75-80 mph). The normal speed limit in average speed control roadworks areas is 50 mph.

    There are 2 very good reasons to enforce a much slower speed in roadworks. First it’s the only time you can reliably predict there will be pedestrians on or around the carriageway – i.e. the people working on fixing the road. There are also slow moving road repair vehicles. Pedestrians (and slow moving vehicles like tractors) are banned from motorways, so motorway users do not expect to see them. This expectation is at least partly subconscious meaning it doesn’t entirely go away just because you see the cones and “Workers in road” signs.

    The pedestrian road workers are not protected by a ton or more of metal and are much more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a collision than the drivers and passengers on the rest of the motorway network. Road repair vehicles are likely to be much heavier and solidly built than your car (and may be travelling in the opposite direction – a fact difficult to determine when approaching at speed). Crashing into one would be more like slamming straight into a static cliff face than running into the back of another car travelling slightly slower than you (one which probably has an energy absorbing crumple zone to boot). Again, death and serious injury are hugely more likely in such collisions than in those likely to happen elsewhere on the network.

    Secondly, the lanes are frequently narrowed through the roadworks, and often the hard shoulder (US: break down lane?) may be in use. Reduced lane width mean a higher likelihood of accidents if speeds are not also reduced. Hard shoulders often have small debris on them which doesn’t collect on the main carriageway due to constant use. Such debris can easily cause blow outs or severely reduce tyre performance and so increase breaking distances or induce skids.

    I find being restricted to 50 on a motorway intensely annoying. It can feel like you’re barely moving and like it’s an effort not to go faster. But intellectually I know that a couple of miles at 50 rather than 70 costs me very little time indeed and makes myself and others safer. Even if the roadworks go on for 5 miles, I’m losing less than 1m45s. That’s hardly going to ruin my day, but ending up in the hospital or morgue certainly would. And even that would be preferable to sending someone else there for the sake of less than 2 minutes.

  37. AsqJames says

    They’re called “tachographs” and may be paper in older vehicles, but any commercial vehicle which is required to use them and was registered since 2006 must have a digital one.

    The reason for them and why they “can be randomly checked by the ministry of transport’s Schutzstaffel” is to make sure commercial drivers are not being forced to drive for such long periods of time without appropriate rest periods that their concentration slips or they actually fall asleep at the wheel. It’s as much protecting workers’ rights as it is protecting the public from the dangers of sleepy drivers in 60 ton HGVs.

    As such, I think connecting it’s enforcement with the SS may be the most obscene Godwin I’ve seen in many months. Well done.

  38. Pen says

    I don’t know Kyoseki, what part of a speed limit is hard to understand? You’re not being asked to make an independent judgement on whether it’s safe to go faster or not, you’re being asked to respect it.

  39. kyoseki says

    Sorry, I was channeling the Daily Mail last night.

    Besides, it’s not a real internet discussion without at least one Nazi reference :)

  40. kyoseki says

    I’m being asked to exercise personal judgment in all other aspects of driving a vehicle, why should speed be any different?

  41. kyoseki says

    As I believe I pointed out, most of the average speed cameras are used during roadworks, when, yes, it is usually not a good idea to slow the hell down, however the degree to which any actual “work” goes on during road works varies immensely.

    Over here, you quite often see “construction zones” popping up (as denoted by orange diamonds) without any apparent construction going on – of course, that doesn’t stop any fine from being doubled “in the name of safety”.

    … and not all average speed cameras are employed on road works, are they? They’re starting to crop up more and more often on regular roads and as long as the government gets a large chunk of the proceeds, I don’t see that they’re going to be going away any time soon.

    As far as I’m concerned, any system that forces you to take your eyes off the road and keep checking your dashboard is fundamentally flawed, thankfully speed cameras have been ruled unconstitutional here in California (Arizona loves the bloody things though, they even used them on freeways, because if there’s one place you want drivers slamming on their brakes to avoid a ticket, it’s when everyone’s doing 80).

  42. Acolyte of Sagan says

    I think it’s fair to say that modern vehicles with on-board computers (which is basically everything above the most basic of base models) carry a permanant record of every journey made regarding what speed the car / truck was doing and when, and most sat-navs also store the information about your journeys.
    How long before the authorities devise a plug-in machine which they can use to access this info from any (or all) vehicle at will, and issue penalties accordingly?

  43. Sophy says

    The babysitter for my nephews and nieces was killed at the age of nineteen. Her summer job was holding the sign saying stop or slow for the road crew while they were working. She got hit by a car going too fast in a construction zone.
    In Canada I can look at Google maps before heading out on a trip and see where there might be problems on the road. Its very useful and if you don’t like slowing down for road works you can plan your trip accordingly.

  44. wscott says

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned: redlight cameras have caused howls of outrage in several communities from the police unions, because cops no longer could count on “professional courtesy” getting them out of tickets, even when they’re off-duty and driving their personal cars. Cue the absence-of-sympathy…

    @ machineintelligence 2.1:

    Denver is particularly bad. If you come to a stop with your front wheels beyond the stop bar painted on the pavement, you will get a ticket.

    Yes, but the reason for that is to stop people from blocking the crosswalks. I myself have nearly been hit because I had to “detour” into traffic to get around a car whose front bumper was clear across the painted crosswalk. Now imagine you’re someone in a wheelchair/scooter? The disabled community fought VERY hard to get Denver to start enforcing that.

    @ WithinThisMind 10.3

    The thing about speed limits is that they are often stupid. One should be able to drive as fast as conditions allow for safety.

    So who decides how fast is too fast? The driver? Then say goodbye to any speed enforcement whatsoever. The cops? Well, they already have that discretion to a point, but do you really want to make it completely subjective?

    The problem is a great many people absolutely suck at risk evaluation, especially behind the wheel. For one thing, most of us aren’t nearly the awesome drivers we think we are. Second, most people tend to drive as fast as they think they can manage as long as there’s no problem, but don’t allow for the unexpected. Which is a killer, because most people tend to vastly underestimate how long it takes a car to stop.

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